Domain Names

When we begin the work of installing a website for a LETS group, one issue that may arise is managing the domain name. To clarify this before going into detail, the location of the domain NAME is not necessarily the same as the HOSTING of the website. Sometimes both services are handled by the same ISP (internet service provider), and might be part of a package, ie "hosting a website with a free domain name", or "buying a domain name through an ISP then adding on hosting". But essentially the domain is registered via one ISP, and then pointed to a hosting space, which may be owned by another ISP.

Since we can create sub-domains - eg - and the group is happy with this, there may be no further problem. If the group wants to keep its existing website, at the very least, an internal link will need to be created to a new members area, which can be on the sub-domain. Whether the existing website needs replacing or just updating, if the webmaster has moved on, we will need access to the hosting space. Organising this can be surprisingly complicated.

Sometimes the original website is hosted in a member's own web-space, and they may not be able to give full access to it because of the other client sites they are hosting there. In some cases they may be happy to share access via the FTP (file transfer protocol), and/ or participate in the upgrade. However, sites are often content managed systems (CMS), where the client has no access to the files which control the design of the site, and is only able to add content by logging on, because full access would be a security risk. A request for "the password" may be responded to by re-issuing an editing logon, which does not give the access we need to upload new software and access the database.

If the domain is owned by someone who is now less involved but continues to maintain the name as a favour, a request for a password to the domain itself, is also unlikely to be responded to in a favourable way, because to give out this password would give access to all the other domains being managed on behalf of other clients. A specific request to change the name servers - currently for us it would be and - is more likely to be successful. This is usually an option under DNS management, but if the former webmaster is used to a set-up whereby the domain is registered and the site hosted within the same ISP, they may not be familiar with the procedure for pointing a domain elsewhere - or it may not even be an option within their account.

The optimal solution may be for LETSlink to take ownership of the domain, which may not appeal to some groups, but is more secure than relying on an individual who cannot be tracked down. In this case, ideally after obtaining the agreement of the domain owner, we would initiate a transfer, and a process is set in motion resulting in the IPSTAG being changed to that of our ISP, which is currently FREEZONE. However, because it is an unfamiliar procedure, help may be needed from the existing ISP to do this correctly. If the group feels insecure about losing ownership of the domain, an alternative solution may be for LETSlink to set up a new account to own the domain in the name of the group and carry out the domain management in this space, whilst sharing the password of this account with the group organisers. The main risk of this solution is failure to maintain the domain, which needs renewing bi-annually.

LL/MF 6/4/2012